The Christian Encounters Series is a collection of short biographies of literary and historical figures published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. In this short biography by Mark Horne, he explores the life of John Ronal Reuel Tolkien. In addition, Horne attempts to demonstrate how Tolkien’s faith and life experiences shaped his creativity and influenced his writing.
There were several interesting facts that were brought to light when reading this book. J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on 1/3/1892. He lost his father at a very young age. Subsequently, his mother relocated the family back to England, where “Tolkien discovered the beauty of the English countryside – his first “shire”.” His mother had a significant influence on his faith, being a Christian and participating in regular worship of Anglican and Catholic background. Tolkien consequently lost his mother at the age of 12. Another interesting fact about Tolkien was his love of language.
Apparently his mother had taught him Latin and French. He learned Greek at school, after which he learned some Finnish in order to read a book called the Kalevala, which was purported to have greatly influenced him. Tolkien was also a war veteran, having lived through World Wars I and II. He spent three and half months in a war-zone. Most of his battalion was either captured or dead.
Fast forward several years, Tolkien became an English professor and was appointed to work at Leeds. His passion for Norse tales led him to start a club called the Viking Club, where he met C.S. Lewis. It was interesting to me that Tolkien influenced C.S. Lewis with respect to Christianity and not vice versa. They shared many similar interests and remained friends throughout their adult life. C.S. Lewis died in 1963. Tolkien died in September of 1973.
It was endearing to recall about the first time C.S. Lewis had read the manuscript of The Fellowship of the Ring and writing to his dear friend that “all of the long years you have spent on it are justified”.
Although Horne is brief in his biographical account of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, he did convey the message that Tolkien’s writing greatly influenced all those who read it. “…true courage to do what was right even at great cost, Tolkien portrayed a fantasy world that could not only entertain us but could also challenge and inspire us.”
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